Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Taskmaster #3, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated January 2011. This scan is from the trade paperback Taskmaster: Unthinkable, which was published in 2011. Enjoy!
Fred van Lente and Jefte Palo’s Taskmaster mini-series is quite good – it’s often very funny, and van Lente is a good enough writer that when he veers into melodrama, it’s actually quite poignant. But this first page has to get us to the village full of Hitler clones, so there’s not time to waste!
Palo gives us the standard establishing shot of the mountains and our two main characters a bit left of center (centering something is a no-no in long-view photographs, although I’m not sure why, unless it’s part of the rule of thirds and I’m just forgetting it), who are balanced by Taskmaster’s word balloon leading us to the center, where we can take in the entire scene. Notice how the light slowly creeps in as we move more to the right – the left side slope is in shadows, while the right side – where our characters are headed – is lit, giving them a symbolic “shining light” destination where all their questions will be answered. Well, not quite, but that’s the symbolism! I’m not entirely sure if Palo Photoshopped the mountains in – these days in comics, it’s always hard to tell – but they look like they have been, and Jean-Francis Beaulieu, who colored this, has the job (or task) of blending the elements that Palo didn’t draw with those he did. He does a pretty good job throughouot the book – either Palo drew every single thing in here or Beaulieu is a good colorist.
In Panel 2, we get the standard “zoom-in” shot, so we can follow-up on Taskmaster’s statement in Panel 1 and we can get a clearer picture of our principals not that we know where they are. If this is the first issue of this series that we’re picking up, we already know it’s a bit off-kilter, as superhero comics don’t usually begin with “I think I love you,” but van Lente and Palo continue that theme in Panel 2. Mercedes – the woman – is acerbic when Taskmaster tells her he loves her, and it’s clear that he’s said it before. Taskmaster, meanwhile, implies that he has problems with his memory, plus he’s foreshadowing some events from later on in the book. Palo, meanwhile, shows Mercedes pushing on the llama’s tail, another odd detail in a superhero comic, and the angled page leads us nicely from the left to the right and upward, putting Taskmaster in a position of superiority (because it’s his comic) but also commenting ironically on that superiority (because he doesn’t remember who he is or what he’s doing). Then, Panels 3-5 give us another standard breakdown, with a close-up on Mercedes in Panel 3, a shot showing us a glimpse of what’s ahead, and then a reaction shot of Taskmaster as he sees what we’ll see on the next page, which is the big splash page. Van Lente give us some clever dialogue in Panel 3, as Mercedes points out the ridiculous nature of the superhero world, but van Lente also tells us the name of the bad guys – or at least, if we’re reading this issue in a vacuum, what we think are the bad guys – when she says she’ll take her chances with “the Org.” Taskmaster tries to explain that he has to go with his instinct, and when he switches in Panel 5 from talking about himself to talking about what he sees, van Lente makes a nice transition. Mercedes, of course, doesn’t realize he’s seen something “totally messed-up,” but she’s about to. Palo does a nice job with her gritted teeth in Panel 3, because it can come from either the fact that she’s pushing a llama or by the fact that she’s frustrated by Taskmaster (or both), and the subtle downward slant of Taskmaster’s mouth in Panel 5 makes his white, expressionless eyes suddenly expressive, as he can’t understand what he’s seeing. What he is seeing is a nice Bavarian Nazi village in the middle of the Andes, which would make anyone stop short!
Taskmaster is a nifty mini-series. Do yourself a favor a check it out!
Next: It’s December, and for the last month of the year, I thought I’d do the last pages of comics. For a while, they’ll still be random, until the last week or so, when I’ll pick my favorite last pages. So this begins the many SPOILER warnings I will give for the next month. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! And we’ll start the month off with a comic I have claimed was ahead of its time. You can find a different issue of it buried in the archives!